It’s no secret that as we age, our bodies change. Muscles get weaker, skin gets thinner, and bones lose their density. Along with these changes, older adults are also at increased risk of malnutrition due to several different factors. Some of these are:

  • Poor oral health/dental hygiene making it difficult to chew
  • Medications causing lack of hunger, or nausea
  • Financial strain
  • Reduced stomach acid, leading to less uptake of nutrients
  • An inability to recognise thirst or hunger
  • A reduced need for calories, yet often an increased need for nutrients

Changes to gut health

It has been found that as you age, the microbia in your gut changes. This can result in changes to the absorption of nutrients into your system. Therefore, even though you might be consuming the same nutrients as you have your entire life, your body may not be taking them up in the same way. You might need to adjust the amount of these foods in order to gain the same nutrients.

It has also been found that these age-related gut health changes lead to immune system decline and frailty.

Exploring foods that promote gut health (such as fermented foods), may help to prevent or slow these gut microbia changes. Make sure you check with your chosen medical professional before deciding to consume fermented or other gut-health-promoting foods.

It may not be a surprise that malnutrition can be the cause of, or accelerate, the weakening of muscles and bones, thinning of skin and hair – and contribute to a range of other conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

So, what is a “good diet”? And how do you know what to believe and what not to believe with all of the different opinions out there?

Suffering from information overload?

Getting the right nutrition to reduce the negative physiological impact of ageing can be difficult, not only because of the reasons above, but also due to the information available to you. Research results and recommendations on what we should be eating seem to change constantly. Everywhere you look, there is conflicting information. Some research finds that you should be eliminating all sugars from your diet, others find that sugars are okay and instead you should be eliminating all animal products. Some say that fats are bad, others say that fats are good…

If you’ve entered into the realm of health and diet research, you’ve probably left feeling overwhelmed and even more confused than when you started.

What should you eat?

Variety is the spice of life! We think that the safest way to maintain good nutrition and health is to avoid fad diets and stick to eating a variety of natural foods. Eat lots of veggies and fresh fruit, avoid processed foods and those high in sugar, salt and trans fats. Increase your intake of whole grains and fibre, and drink lots of water. Think about what your parents grew up eating; it’s likely that they ate food straight from their garden, and consumed hardly anything that was mass-produced in a factory.

Nutrition Australia recommends that older adults:

  • Eat mostly plant-based foods (around 70% of your diet)
  • Drink more water (8 cups for women per day, 10 cups for men)
  • Limit saturated fats and trans fats
  • Limit cured/processed meats
  • Limit snack foods (foods with added sugar, salt – most convenience and processed foods)
  • Increase beans and legumes and reduce your intake of meat
  • Increase intake of dark green leafy vegetables
  • Increase consumption of whole grains

The Harvard Medical School recommends eating whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and whole-wheat bread. They also discuss the importance of working fibre into your diet as this will help to keep your bowels healthy and decrease your risk of diabetes. They recommend eating at least 30 grams per day for men and 21 grams per day for women. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes are great sources of dietary fibre.

If you have a particular condition, you may need to eat more or less of a particular food group. You should always consult a health professional before drastically changing your diet. Seeing a nutritionist or a dietician can help you to develop an eating plan that is tailored to your individual requirements and meets your needs.

Did you know?

As we age, our tolerance for dairy can often decrease. There are also a lot of recent studies and documentaries suggesting that we should not be eating dairy and theories that it contributes to many inflammatory diseases, including cancer.

If you are dairy-free or want to cut down your intake of dairy products, you might be concerned about missing out on calcium. But, did you know that the following foods contain the same amount of calcium as a standard serve of dairy?

  • 100g almonds (skin on)
  • 60g sardines
  • 100g canned pink salmon (with bones)
  • 100g firm tofu

Use your Home Care Package to improve your nutrition and eating habits

Did you know that you can use your Home Care Package to help you maintain a healthy and nutritious diet?

Your Home Care Package can’t be used to purchase ingredients themselves, but you can use funds to engage with a nutritionist or dietician who will help you to understand the types of foods you should be eating.

Your Home Care Package can be used for meal planning and meal preparation. Older adults often experience a loss of appetite and therefore do not eat regularly. Getting involved in meal preparation can be a great way to stimulate appetite and excitement around food.  

Your Home Care Package can also pay for modifications to your home (modifying/moving stove, sink) to assist you with meal preparation – or to purchase equipment/cooking facilities.

Going to the supermarket can become a difficult task as you age. Use your Home Care Package to get assistance with supermarket shopping, carrying and transport of groceries and stocking of your pantry.

If the act of eating itself is difficult and prevents you from consuming the right foods, your Home Care Package can assist with this by allowing you to employ a support worker to help you. A support worker can assist you with your eating and can prepare food in a way that helps you to consume it (such as ensuring food is cooked so that it is soft, or blending food so that you can consume it easily). There is also additional funding available for enteral feeding if this is required.

Spend time outside

Many older adults spend more time indoors than they did when they were younger. Try your best to spend time outside every day – we absorb Vitamin D from sunlight and this is important to keep bones strong and healthy! If you are not able to get outside regularly, you may be at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Speak to your doctor about this – you may need to take a Vitamin D supplement.

Your Home Care Package funds can be used for social and recreational activities. So, if you’re finding it a bit difficult to get outdoors on your own, use your Home Care Package to help you get out and about.

Find a Home Care provider with nutrition services

Chat to a CareAbout Adviser for information and FREE advice on providers who offer nutrition services, meal planning and preparation.